This excellent article from MSNBC details the firing of a Wiccan employee by TSA at the Albany International airport. The fact that this is in my city is less interesting to me than the fact than this is a clear-cut case of religious discrimination and the fostering of a hostile work environment. The article makes it clear that he thinks the prejudicial treatment of this employee based on her beliefs is offensive; but the upshot of it all is that the employee lost her job for unrelated administrative issues. The fact that employee expressed concern about the incompetence of her fellow employees and the implications for passenger safety is troubling as well.
I am frankly surprised something like this has not happened before. I’ve seen some utterly appalling behavior from TSA employees towards customers, and on the same day and within arms-length, seen excellent, courteous and professional behavior.
I wonder how far this would have gone if these employees were unionized? Surely the proper grievance procedure would have been followed? And the employee would have known to document everything because a union representative would have encouraged this when she made her first complaint. Unionizing also makes the need for this kind of whistleblowing less likely, since there is generally more transparent support systems for employees from management.
And does anyone but me find it outrageous that TSA employees, who are famously overworked, underpaid and often under-qualified, do NOT have a union? Not only would these employees perform better, but any employees who wee not able to uphold union standards would lose their jobs, and perhaps that would make the skies safer for everyone. That this article notes this fired employee was very skilled at discovering concealed weapons means she was competent in at least one important aspect of her job. That she was comfortable with frisking passengers because her experience as a massage therapist is another point in her favor, since this has become a contentious issue of late.
I think it’s obvious that the superstition and ignorance displayed by Smith’s fellow employees created a tense and hostile situation, and that’s on them. If they find witchcraft or Wicca repugnant or frightening, and complain to their superiors about working with a “Wiccan” then the supervisors in question should take the time to educate themselves on the matter, and insist their employees do the same. Regardless of whether the prejudiced employees think of Wicca as a “religion” or not is beside the point; their prejudicial behavior did, regardless, violate this woman’s rights. Religion should not be an issue in the workplace. Period.